Gillick, Alomar belong in Hall together
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The 1990 Winter Meetings were at an O'Hare hotel, and on the third day, we were called to a small, downstairs room for an announcement -- a Blue Jays-Padres trade. "You're going to love this," said Padres GM Joe McIlvaine. "It may be the last great pure baseball trade."
McIlvaine and Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick announced that Toronto was sending Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego for Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter. The room hushed. Doing an update, I stooped to hyperbole with the use of the word "historic," not realizing that it was a trade that would turn out to be just that.
The Blue Jays went on to win the World Series in 1992 and 1993, the latter on Carter's walkoff homer. Alomar, Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield moved on to the Hall of Fame, Alomar arguably the best player in Toronto franchise history.
And here are Alomar and Gillick this weekend, together at the Otesaga Hotel, going into the Hall of Fame. Together.
Gillick moved on to Baltimore, where he brought Alomar. But for Jeffrey Maier, they might have won the '96 World Series. They went wire-to-wire in first place in '97, then Gillick left because of ownership, Alomar followed, and Baltimore hasn't had a winning season since.
Gillick went on to Seattle and built a team without Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez that won 116 games, and was severely hamstrung by ownership. He then went on to Philadelphia, and we know their story.
"What's remarkable about Pat is that he doesn't come in and make sweeping changes," Charlie Manuel once said. "He's such a smart and good person that he works with whoever is there."
Charlie knows. Gillick was called to fire Manuel in the early days, but Gillick appreciated the manager's high baseball IQ and his unique ability to evaluate talent, and the Phillies have a chance to be in the World Series for the third time in four years.
And now Cubs fans want Gillick overseeing their team, which happens to be a very good idea.
Gillick was nicknamed "Yellow Pages" in his days at USC, where he won the College World Series; indeed, he remembers every telephone number ("Will you be at 617-566, 617-731 or 207-627 this weekend?" he once asked), but don't expect him to answer his cell phone, even if Phillies scouting director Gordon Lakey is calling.
Gillick pitched in the Orioles system and was once part of a rotation with Bo Belinsky and Steve Dalkowski. He worked with Tal Smith in Houston, moved on to the Yankees and then built Toronto from scratch, and if Peter Bavasi hadn't vetoed the deal, he'd have traded Bill Singer for Ron Guidry in his first year with the Jays.
"There will be more general managers and scouts and baseball people in Cooperstown than ever before," says Brewers GM Doug Melvin. "Some of us, like Dave Dombrowski, are there to see Roland Hemond honored, but many are going for Pat. His going into the Hall of Fame is for all of us."
"Pat Gillick represents the hard-working baseball core that is scouting and development," says the Cubs' Gary Hughes.
Gillick would fly to San Paolo to see a Brazilian pitcher. He was a pioneer in Latin America, particularly the Dominican Republic with his friend Eppy Guerrero. He was once trying to sign Gregg Olsen, and managed to get onine and arrange to sit next to Olsen's agent Jeff Moorad on a flight to Birmingham. He revolutionized the way general managers viewed free agency, as the first to trade for potential free agents to store extra Draft picks.
When the Jays won the Series those two years, he was barely visible in the clubhouse. That's who he is. You couldn't find him when his team was winning, but when that team was losing, he was always behind the cage to deflect the heat.
It's Trade Deadline week, so it's appropriate to go back to the '93 deadline. Gillick had two deals going, one with Oakland for Rickey Henderson (Steve Karsay and a player to be named later), one with Seattle for Randy Johnson (Karsay and Mike Timlin).
He wanted the Johnson deal, but Pat couldn't find Woody Woodward, who was playing golf. Sandy Alderson called and took the Henderson deal.
Problem was, Rickey being Rickey, he wanted money to waive his rights. While that was being negotiated, Woodward called and said he'd take the Johnson deal.
Pat Gillick felt he had given his word to Alderson, even if the deal hadn't been finalized. So he put the Seattle deal on hold.
Had Randy Johnson gone to Toronto and not led the charge to the '95 playoffs, there might not be a Safeco, or a team in Seattle, or a world championship banner hanging over Phoenix. But that is all faded history.
Pat Gillick and Robbie Alomar are here, where they belong, the best general manager of his time and the most instinctive player most of us will ever see.
Peter Gammons a columnist for MLB.com and analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.